Book review and giveaway: The Sign of the Weeping Virgin


The Sign of the Weeping Virgin



384 pages

Published by Five Star Publishing in December 2012

ARC received from Alana White
via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Sign of the Weeping Virgin

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

   hf-reading-challenge-2013 New Authors 2013

European RC 2013 Whats in a name 6


If I pronounce the word Medici, I bet you will first think about Catherine de’ Medici (1547–1559), a Regent Queen of France. By then, the Medici dynasty was actually already a century old and powerful.

The Sign of the Weeping Virgin centers around Lorenzo de’ Medici, also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449 – 1492). Living at the time of the Italian Renaissance, he is well known for supporting the arts.

The hero is Guid’Antonio Vespucci (see Alana White’s page, in the right column), Lorenzo’s friend and supporter; also ambassador to France and to other essential diplomatic missions.

I knew almost nothing about Lorenzo de’ Medici and had never heard about Guid’Antonio.

We had lots of history classes in France related to the Papal states and their evolution, but again, presented as something isolated. This book beautifully puts to light the struggles of power between Rome (no, the Pope was definitely not a saint) and several major Italian cities: Florence, ruled by the Medicis from generation to generation, and also mostly Naples,  Sienna, and Venice.

Keep in mind that the Muslims are at the door, ready to expand their presence in Europe, threatening to invade Italy, and thereby maybe inspiring Italian cities to finally unite to stop their quarrel and offer a united front against the enemy, and you are in the presence of a vast historical fresco.

Talking about frescoes, yes of course we are in the Renaissance, with all these amazing Italians painters and sculptors: Botticelli is here, quite central to the plot actually, Leonardo da Vinci, and many more.

I was familiar with many paintings by Boticelli, but of course not this one!

Boticelli  Boticelli detail

Artist Sandro Botticelli
Year 1480
Type Fresco
Dimensions 152 cm × 112 cm (60 in × 44 in)
Location Church of Ognissanti, Florence

See that book behind him? Believe it or not, there is indeed something written in there that the author used to center her plot around! How smarter can you be for a historical novel?

The novel contains also fantastic descriptions of clothes, of food, and of the ambiance, particularly in the dark black alleys of Florence, where you have sometimes to follow your hero by night. Creepy!

With its very detailed historical background, its mystery and smart plot, this novel is extremely rich. So rich that I suggest you take note as you read:

  • make a list of the characters as they appear, there are a lot, writing down:
  1. where they live,
  2. whom they are supporting,
  3. how they are related,
  • and list also the sequence of events, as they become clearer and clearer along the way.

I would actually have enjoyed being provided with a map of all the cities mentioned in the book. But you could also draw your own!

The author has studied Florence and the Medicis for a long time, and you can definitely appreciate the quality of the information. If you need a very enjoyable and smart refresher on the history of Italy at a pivotal time, this historical novel is for you.


The year is 1480, and celebrated Florentine lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his nephew, Amerigo, return home to Italy from a government mission to find their dreams of peace shattered. Marauding Turks have abducted a beautiful young girl and sold her into slavery. Equally disturbing, a revered painting of the Virgin Mary is weeping in Guid’Antonio’s family church. Angry and fearful Florentines interpret these stunning events as signs of God’s wrath for their support of the city’s leader, Lorenzo de’ Medici, and Lorenzo’s refusal to end his war with the Pope.

Faced with losing control of the city, Lorenzo enlists Guid’Antonio, his friend and staunch political ally, to investigate the tears. In an evocative tale that brings the Italian Renaissance gloriously to life, following a seemingly unrelated trail of clues–a name whispered in the marketplace by a hooded monk, a secret message painted by Sandro Botticelli on the wall of the Vespucci family church–Guid’Antonio and Amerigo chase across Florence to the workshops of Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli, to churches where frescoes seem to fly off the walls, from Florence to the village where the girl disappeared, and, finally, to the hilltop of Vinci itself.

In The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, a finely wrought story that will appeal to lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere, Guid’Antonio uncovers the thought-provoking truth about the missing girl and the Virgin Mary’s mystifying–and miraculous?–tears, all pursued as he comes face to face with his own personal demons.


Alana White

When I travel, I enjoy going to Italy, especially to Florence, of course. I collect books on the Italian Renaissance, particularly those about Lorenzo de’ Medici and his circle, which included not only Guid’Antonio and Amerigo, but also their friends and neighbors Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, poet Angelo Poliziano, and other fifteenth-century luminaries. I’ve published several short stories with the Vespuccis as my protagonists (one story was a finalist for the Macavity Award given by Mystery Readers International), and my book reviews appear regularly in the “Historical Novels Review” and “Renaissance Magazine.” I’m a member of the Historical Novel Society (serving in the past as Agent/​Editor Liaison and as Secretary for the North American conferences), the Authors Guild, and the Women’s National Book Association. I am also a member of Mystery Writers of America and a member and past president of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of Sisters in Crime, an international organization for mystery writers and readers.

Upon graduation from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky with a master’s degree in English, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where I live with my husband, a feisty Schnauzer, and a big orange cat.

Read more about Alana White and about the Medicis and Vespuccis, with artwork, on her site.


fill in this short form


I will draw the winner on 2/25.

And visit the Tour to read other reviews of this book,
and for additional chances to win a copy!



8 thoughts on “Book review and giveaway: The Sign of the Weeping Virgin

  1. Pingback: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013 « Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: New Authors Reading Challenge 2013 « Words And Peace

  3. Pingback: European Reading Challenge 2013 « Words And Peace

  4. Pingback: What’s in a Name 6 Reading Challenge « Words And Peace

  5. Just received this message from the author herself!:
    “Emma, Thank you so, so much for your lovely and in depth (!) review of The Sign of the Weeping Virgin. I appreciate it so much; it makes my heart feel good:) I’ll read it as I’m writing the next book in the series for inspiration and courage. Thanks again so much.
    All the best,

    The Sign of the Weeping Virgin
    *STARRED* Kirkus Review ~ Awarded to Books of Exceptional Merit
    Historical Novel Society EDITORS’ CHOICE ~ February 2013
    Find Me Here:


  6. Pingback: 2013: February wrap-up | Words And Peace

What do you think? Share your thoughts, and I will answer you. I will also visit your own blog

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.